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Interview with News Anchor Leeann Tweeden. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 16:30   ET


LEEANN TWEEDEN, ANCHOR WHO ACCUSED FRANKEN OF GROPING: I do. I do. And, you know, the one that came out this morning, I accepted that one too. It was very short and very brief.

[16:30:04] My initial reaction was, it sounded like a staffer put that out hastily. You know, which maybe, could have been the truth, you know, to get it out quickly because when it hit, it was, you know, it went viral and it was everywhere. But that one did seem heartfelt. And I believe it. And I believe him, you know? And I honestly do believe him.

And you know, I wasn't -- I wasn't waiting for an apology from him, but I gladly accept it and thank you, Senator Franken. And, yes.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you want him to call you?

TWEEDEN: Sure. I mean, you know, look, I -- my husband and I saw him at a USO metro gala a couple years after and I was very cold to him. He found me in a room and said, hello, Leeann, and I said, hi, Al, and I turned and walked away from him, and my husband said, hi, Al, and turned and walked away from him, and he didn't get it them, and didn't apologize to me then. So, if he didn't get it then and say I'm sorry for, you know, anything that I did, you know, and it took this for the apology, so -- but whatever.

It's -- you know, I'm glad that he -- that second apology, I think maybe he had some time to digest it and think about it and, you know, I believe him. And I think it is heartfelt. And I think men and, you know, there are men victims that have come out and, you know, this whole Harvey Weinstein era in the last month that have come out, yes. People need to take a long, hard look at the culture that has been happening since, you know, men and women have walked the earth, frankly.

TAPPER: Right.

TWEEDEN: And I hope it's changing, and I hope it will change because it's going to take all of us. And not only what happens behind closed doors, a lot of this abuse and harassment happens in front of other people. And when other people let it happen and don't speak up to say something and say look, that's not OK, it's going to continue. So, I'm glad he did speak up and I appreciate that.


TAPPER: Well, was anybody there when the kiss took place -- TWEEDEN: No.

TAPPER: It was just you too two.

TWEEDEN: No, no. It was just us two backstage behind a little cordoned off curtain area, yes.

TAPPER: What do you think about the Senate is calling for an ethics investigation, ethics committee investigation. Franken himself called for it. But just a day ago, when it came out that more than $15 million had been paid off in settlements to women for sexual harassment and other charges by Congress, there was a lot of question about, should Congress really be in charge of investigating itself? Can we really?

I mean, I don't know if you saw in the coverage of it when Jackie Speier did her hearing in the House a couple days ago, but they put up a chart of what women or men need to do to lodge a complaint of sexual harassment. And it's this process, it's like a Rube Goldberg design that only could have been designed by somebody who actually was a sexual harasser who was trying to dissuade women from lodging these complaints.

I guess the question, is the Senate, if ethics committee, forgetting Al Franken for a second, is it enough for senators or should there be something else?

TWEEDEN: I think there should be -- if anybody is going to be investigated, I mean, I'm not talking about this case in particular, but it should always be an independent investigation because you can't expect the -- I'm not going to say swamp, you can't expect people within their own group to investigate themselves. That's never going to be a fair investigation because they're always going to protect themselves.

So I would think an outside investigation or an outside party that's unbiased and not part of that affiliation is always going to be called for because they're always going to protect themselves. And that's $15 million payout, you -- I mean, that's like having these NDAs, that's how you protect --

TAPPER: Right.

TWEEDEN: -- that's how Harvey Weinstein was able to protect because that's how women stay silent, or men, right? When you can pay off and say, I'm going to pay you for your silence. OK, maybe I abused you, maybe I sexually harassed you, maybe I raped you, but if I pay you money, but you're going to stay silent, they can continue that type of behavior.

TAPPER: They do. That's the whole point. Right.

TWEEDEN: And they do that in Congress, and Congress they're paying them off with our money.

TAPPER: Right. TWEEDEN: They're paying them off with taxpayer money. I'm sure that $15 million didn't come out of their personal pocket, right?


TWEEDEN: So how do we not know names? How do we not know what happened? Names need to be named and the money needs to come out of their own personal checkbooks, OK?

This is wrong. When names start being named, right, and I think there was a call yesterday on Capitol Hill that if we start knowing names and people start being called out, maybe this behavior will start changing.

TAPPER: Do you -- are you willing to testify before the Senate Ethics Committee?

TWEEDEN: I would be, sure. I mean, I -- yes. OK, if they asked me to.

TAPPER: Do you think that Senator Franken should step down from his job or if he fails to be expelled from the Senate by his colleagues?

[16:35:04] TWEEDEN: I'm not asking for that. I mean, that's not why I came out with my story. I'm not asking for him to step down as senator, that's not my -- if somebody else calls for that, but that's not what I'm asking.

TAPPER: But in your heart, I mean, do you have any feeling? I mean, it sounds like you've nursed this understandably with a lot of resentment, again, completely understandably for 11 years. Do you want him punished? I mean, what -- or do you just want to be acknowledged as a human being and apologized to?

TWEEDEN: Yes. I think that's it, the latter. I think I just wanted him to apologize to me for that. And say he was sorry. And I think that second statement that he came out with and the acknowledgment of saying that it was wrong and that heartfelt and, you know, gathering his staff and saying, you know, what, it was wrong, and I think everybody needs to take a good, hard look. And I think he really came from a place of honesty there.

And I think that's really where change is going to be driven from. Not from the victims coming out and talking about it. I think it's going to come from the people who maybe do the abusing that don't even realize they're doing the abusing, because it's so a part of the culture and it's been so a part of when you can do this and look at a camera and laugh and think that that's OK and you can get away with it and you know you're being photographed and you know you're doing it to a woman and you think that that's OK and you can do it with impunity and you think you can just get away with it and it's ha-ha funny -- that's what's wrong with the culture, you know? So if we can have the people doing the abusing change, that's where, that's when the change is going to occur.

TAPPER: You've been -- we've all been watching the changes in the society when it comes to this issue of sexual assault and harassment in the last year, I guess -- I mean, slowly and now quickly. Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Halperin, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, on and on and on and on, are there any of the women who came for in any of those cases who inspired you? Because I think right now, you're probably inspiring a lot of people. And I'm wondering if are there any women who came before you who inspired you to come forward today?

TWEEDEN: I mean, I don't think specifically. I think it's more of -- as a whole. I think, you know, just for me, I say Congresswoman Jackie Speier, just because when she came on our show a couple weeks ago and she told the story and it was just almost verbatim what happened to me, and she happens to be, you know, a congresswoman and it's political and, you know, Al Franken is now a senator. And it just -- it just sounded like my words you know what I mean?

So, I think that's why -- it was a trigger point for me. And it inspired know come forward. But all of those women -- we're just standing on the backs of those women. You know, I just -- it takes courage and strength and I only pulled strength from them.

Look, this morning, right before I talked about it on our radio show, I was terrified, you know? I told my husband right before I came to do your show, I'm sitting in the car and I'm like, there was a moment this morning, all of the sudden, I tried to go out and go to the bathroom and there were all kinds of TV cameras in the hallway. I had no idea, Jake, honestly, I had no idea what it was going to turn into. I thought maybe a camera was going to show up and then, all of the sudden, the hallway was blocked.

And I kind of like -- I need to go to the bathroom and right at that moment, my husband texted me, how are you holding up? And I literally just locked myself in the bathroom for a minute and like I wanted to start crying. It was just like sort of overwhelming emotion, you know, and I even had Lauren, one of the girls that came out about Harvey Weinstein, who is a friend of ours and I've known her for a long time, and she told me -- she texted me last night she knew I was going to talk about it this morning, and she said, you're going to feel better, you know? Once it comes out, you're going to feel better.

I haven't gotten to that point yet, I'll be honest. I still sort of have that knot in my stomach. You know, I don't feel like yay, it feels great coming out and talking about it. I mean, I still feel kind of sick about it, you know? It's not a feel-good thing. I still feel sort of embarrassed about it, you know? It's --

TAPPER: You don't need me to say that this, but you did nothing to be embarrassed about. I know you know that intellectually. There's nothing you did that you should be embarrassed about.

How are you holding up? You have a loving husband. You have a support network there. Are you doing OK?

TWEEDEN: I just want to go home and -- I have a 2-year-old and a 4- year-old, and I just want to hug my babies and my husband. That's all.

You know, I've been up since 2:00 in the morning, California time, I haven't eaten anything. I have like cotton mouth.

[16:40:01] I don't know if you could tell. I feel like my teeth are sticking to my gums.

You know, I'm OK, I'm holding up. You know, I just -- it's been nonstop. That's all.

I'm OK. Thank you. I'm all right.

TAPPER: The world that you're making for your children, for your 2- year-old and for your 4-year-old, you realize that you are making it better for them. I don't know the genders of your children, but it actually doesn't even matter.

TWEEDEN: I have a boy and a girl.

TAPPER: OK. Well, but it's -- but both of them need to be impacted by this, right? Not just the girl.

TWEEDEN: You know, you always -- I don't want to be cliche, but, you know, you talk about leaving the world a better place for your kids, you know -- sorry.

TAPPER: Nothing to be sorry about.

TWEEDEN: I didn't think I was going to do that.

But you know, you do. You want to leave, you know -- you try to set examples for your children, right? You want to leave the world a better place. You try to -- you want to set examples and you want the world to be better for your kids. You want to leave it better than what you had it.

And it's like you know, I've had so many of my girlfriends text me. I mean, my phone died already twice today because people have been texting and calling and they're like, you know, stay strong because you're doing something that is going to make the world better for your daughter, you know?

And maybe I am. You know? I didn't look at it that way. But maybe I am. And if I am, OK. I'll take it.

TAPPER: You are. But of course you are. But it's not just for your daughter. You're doing it for your son too, right?


TAPPER: Because he doesn't -- you don't want him to grow up and either misbehave or --


TAPPER: -- you know, have women friends or family members who are affected that way, because obviously what you're doing is making the world a better place because you're bringing awareness in a very public and -- I know you don't feel it, but very brave way.

You said something earlier that surprised me. You didn't know how much this was going to -- how big a deal this was going to be. You thought there might be one camera. You didn't know it was going to be such a huge story of interest to so many people. Why?

TWEEDEN: Well -- I mean, I knew it would be a story because it deals with Senator Franken. I didn't know that it would be like this. You know?

I mean -- I guess, I mean, I guess it's like trying to describe the Grand Canyon to somebody and then seeing it with your own eyes, you know, I guess maybe it's just a little bit different in perspective, you know, but I just -- it's been a whirlwind. It's been nonstop. I think the flood of phone calls and e-mails and messages and text messages and the interest and the stories and the trending and -- it's overwhelming. You know?

Just, you know, haven't had a couple minutes to myself. And like I said, you know, I just -- you know, I haven't had a chance to see my kids. And, you know, I've been able to talk to my husband like twice and just for a minute and, you know, it's just -- it's, you know -- it's just overwhelming. Really.

TAPPER: One of the -- I know you're not doing this in any partisan way at all. These stories inevitably become partisan, not because of you. Not because of how the media necessarily covers it, but because partisans seize upon it.

And we saw that with the allegations against Donald Trump last year. We see this with allegations against Roy Moore.

What do you think about that? About people taking credible allegations of sexual misconduct and using them for partisan purposes, one way or the other?

TWEEDEN: Disgusting. I mean, when is -- how can you take sides when there's right and when there's wrong? I mean, it's -- I tried to describe it yesterday. We were talking about it on the radio show, and I said if you listen to stories like we watch "The Voice" for example, right, where you turn your seats around and you hear a voice and you don't see the face, you don't see the person, you don't know where that voice is coming from. You just hear the beautiful melody and you just hear the talent, right?

If you just heard the stories of what some of these people do and you've heard the accusations and then you hear the accusers or the stories that have come out and you didn't know anything about the person or their affiliation or what -- if they're a liberal or if they're a Republican or, you know, what side they're affiliated with politically. And you made your decision based on what you hear are facts or the allegations or what-have-you, it would be a very different story. And it's so sad to me that, you know, if you are sexually assaulted or

abused or raped or whatever it is that has happened to you, you're a victim or you're an abuser or whatever, it doesn't matter if you have a D or R in front of your name, that should have nothing to do with it. I mean, that's the thing that when Congresswoman Spear came on the show, you know, she has, you know, teamed up with other Republican females in Congress to talk about like this is not a partisan issue. Like, when you're sexual assaulted, that -- it doesn't matter.

When you're sexual assaulted, it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat. The guy doesn't know hey, are you a Republican or Democrat? Because, when I'm raping you I want to know which one you are. The affiliation doesn't matter, right? So I don't see how people can go, oh, I'm so happy that she was assaulted because she's a Republican or I'm so happy that he's been accused because he's a Democrat, like disgusting to me. Like -- that's -- this is not -- that's not the point here. Let's get back to the problem of what happened here and what is he being accused of regardless of what his affiliation is because that's the issue here. Let's not -- let's talk about the problem and the victim.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think it's going to get better? Do you think that there is becoming more awareness because of all of these cases including yours today that the behavior will change and more women will come forward and fewer men will feel like they can try this nonsense, try -- assault women and get away with it?

TWEEDEN: You know, I'm a realist, so I hope it's going to get better and I think it will. Yes, I think -- I think more women are going to feel, and men too, I think people are going to feel more empowered to speak up when it happens. Is sexual assault and rape and all of these things still going to happen? Yes, it's going to happen because it's human nature and people are still going to be assaulted and things are, you know, we're not going to live in this perfect society where everybody's going to get along and, you know, we're going to have no crime and no rape and, you know, everything's going to be perfect and we're going to live in harmony. Let's be realistic. That's never going to happen, but, I do think times are changing. And I think you see in Hollywood now where these allegations come.

Look at the fall from grace of Harvey Weinstein and it has -- we're talking about a guy who ran Hollywood, who -- I mean, he could win an Oscar just by putting money into, you know -- I mean, it was just amazing how much control he had over, you know, the Oscar nominations and the movies that were put out and how much control he had over the movie that were put out and made and distributed and all of that. And his fall from grace was just unbelievable. And then you look at Kevin Spacey and how people just cut and ran. You look at Louis C.K. and people just cut and ran. And we're talking about accusations and when multiple people come out. I mean, none of these were "proven." I mean, they started hearing them and multiple people come out and people like, you know what, we've pulled all of it, we're cutting the movie, we're replacing him in a movie. We've cut our deals and they just cut and ran.

I mean, just at the first sight of it. So it's really been incredible. So I think times have changed. People don't even want to know. And there's been a silence departure -- I mean, people don't hear this, but in a lot of, you know, agencies in Hollywood, a lot of talent companies in Hollywood, there've been a lot of people that have silently cleaned out their desks and sort of just walked away that have either been privy to that have been maybe part of that sort of culture, that the hammers either coming down or they know that it's coming down the pipeline and have just gone, you know what, we're just going to take our leave now before maybe the shoe drops on them.

So it's, it's really -- it's happening there and maybe it's going to happen in more palaces like Capitol Hill or, you know, maybe it'll take a little bit longer to happen in middle America because the spotlight is not shining as bright, you know, at the local Chilies or at the local you know, Kinko's or wherever people are working where you know, you don't have a-list actresses and you know, big movie moguls and stuff. That people know their names because they see them on T.V. all the time. It might be a little bit different, but it's definitely, you know, I think the change, the tide is turning. And I think it's definitely -- people are more aware now and I think people are not as afraid to speak up because people are going to call it out as it happens and I think this younger generation and I think it's happening. I definitely do.

[16:50:11] TAPPER: Leeann, one last question for you, and that is any woman or man watching right now who has experienced the kind of thing that you have experienced, what's your message to them as you go through the end of this very, very difficult day?

TWEEDEN: You know, you definitely got to find your strength with your -- with your loved ones and, you know, just know if -- the truth is on your side. If you have the truth on your side, you know, you can't go wrong. You've definitely got to -- you know, your heart's got to be in it to know that it's going to be definitely a difficult struggle, you know. It's going to be -- people are going to want to tear you down and people are going to want to, you know, challenge your credibility and going to want to say nasty things about you and like you said, don't look at Twitter for a while.

But you know, they're going to -- people are going to want to change you and it's not going to be easy. But you know, if the truth is on your side, you have that going for you and it's -- if you want to make change, change is never easy. You know, change is tough, but if you want to be on the right side of history and you want to make change, you know, you're going to have to -- have to do some walking and believe in that and do it, you know.

TAPPER: Well, you're making change. Leeann Tweeden, thank you so much. We're honored that you told your story to us.

TWEEDEN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Talk to you soon. My panel is back with me. Your reaction?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I cried a little bit during that. And the point where I started to tear up where I think she did is when she talked about the humiliation factor. For her to come forward and tell people this happened, she had to relive probably one of the most humiliating days of her life. And not only relive it but show people a photo of it. We've all seen that photo and that's nothing on her, she did nothing wrong.

TAPPER: Right.

CARPENTER: But to know that that happened to her and the only way away would believe it is if we all saw the picture and circulated it. Like, that's the terrible predicament that women are in. I think Senator Franken needs to do a lot more than issue a public apology via press release. She has a lot of class. She said she believed his apology, I think he needs to try to make it in person. She may not want to see him. He needs to make a much bigger gesture than a press release because she has gone through a lot over the last ten years. And we can talk about what will happen in the Senate, I'm happy to do that, but for him as a person to just fire off a public press release and think that's enough to undo the damage that she's undergone for the last ten years, no.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am emotionally exhausted after that interview. I think she said so many things that are so important in such an eloquent and compelling way to help us understand the psyche. You know, so many people when it comes to Roy Moore have questioned the credibility of the victims because they said what took them so long. They waited 40 years. Well, Leeann just explained for us in such eloquence and with such grace what took them so long. She explained the embarrassment, the humiliation. She explained having to deal with it and carrying this inside of her for the last 10, 11 years. So for those folks that think this is political. No, this is not political. This is about women who need to tell their stories. She talked about getting strength from numbers and what the other women having told their story meant to her. Why she's doing this? She's not doing this. What came across very clearly to me is she's not doing this to destroy Al Franken. She's doing this to help other women and she's doing this for herself and for her children. She wants to be a change agent.

Three things, number one, thank you, Leeann, as a woman, as a human being, as an American, thank you, Leeann, for everything you're doing. Number two, Al Franken needs to do more. You asked her if she wanted to get a call, she said she would be open to that. He should be making that call before this show is over and he should be very remorseful. And number three, she talked about, and you brought up, the $15 million that we have paid out as American taxpayers to settle sexual harassment lawsuits in Congress. You know what, we need to know who the hell those men are. We need to know who the hell they are. That's our money, it's taxpayer money, the constituents need to know, the people who voted for them need to know, their colleagues need to know, their staffers that maybe today those 18, 20-year-old staffers that are coming out of college and applying to work for those Congresspeople need to know who they are.

They owe it to the American people to tell us who they are. It's our money. It's our vote, it's our Congress, it's our institution, it's our democracy. And any man who's out there who's done something akin to what Al Franken did or to what Roy Moore did and whatever, you know what you should do today guys? Pick up that phone and call the women and apologize now. Apologize today. Because there may be a lot of people thinking this is going to go away. Maybe I'm safe. Maybe the woman I did it to is not going to speak up. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid because women are empowered, they are emboldened and they're not going to take it anymore.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wouldn't that be amazing if the balance of power, the balance of terror switched?


BEGALA: No, that's what I mean. So that -- and believe me I'm sure all over Capitol Hill, probably all over Hollywood, and one day as miss Tweeden said, I hope that middle America too. This is -- there are a lot of women being harassed to the break room, in a stockroom, in a file room who don't have access to the attention that Miss Tweeden has gotten for her case. And she's doing this I think for them. I found her wholly credible, completely credible. And I think this is good advice, I think Senator Franken should come -- I need to disclose, he's a friend of mine. I donated to his campaign, I campaigned for him in Minnesota so I have a bias toward Al Franken and yet I found her interview with you completely believable, wholly credible. But this point about sunlight. Yesterday, Congresswoman Spears said there were two current members of the House who have harassed women --

TAPPER: A Democrat and a Republican but she would name --

BEGALA: And did not name them. What if they were committing embezzlement? Right? They're still -- even for a reformer, there is this culture of silence that we can't, you know, we do need to know.

TAPPER: For all I know, she was -- she was told by a lawyer -- I mean, she might be legally liable.

BEGALA: I don't mean to criticize her. That's a good point. There may be legal reasons but we need to disclose this.

NAVARRO: Absolutely. And reports this week in the press here in Washington, the political press that there was a Congressperson from California and a Congressperson from Texas who are on this creep list from staffers. Well, people need to talk because there's going to be future staffers applying for jobs for these people .and the voters have the right to know.

CARPENTER: Well, there should be a standalone piece of legislation yesterday barring any expulsion of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims, period. The end. End that practice yesterday.

TAPPER: Something that was interesting today was Leeann Tweeden came forward with her allegations, and there was, as far as I could tell, almost unanimous condemnation. I mean, I didn't hear, even from a week ago when the Roy Moore allegations came forward, and it was told, well if true, this is disturbing, blah, blah, blah. We just heard this was wrong, this was inappropriate, this needs to go before the Senate Ethics Committee --

BEGALA: With no witnesses, but some of this is because Al Franken did the right thing and confessed. He admitted it --

TAPPER: Well, he didn't admit the kiss part. He said-- he said he remembers it differently.

BEGALA: He said he remembers it differently but he apologized and he says he's going to turn it over to the Ethics Committee.

CARPENTER: But how could you rebuke the photos? The photos -- this is the only way he --

BEGALA: He didn't. He didn't. Look at his statement. It's a statement of remorse and contrition. As opposed to Roy Moore --

CARPENTER: But he doesn't remember the part that could be concerted as assault.

BEGALA: As opposed to Roy Moore who is --

TAPPER: He said he remembered it differently. He didn't say he didn't remember.

CARPENTER: Yes, OK, right.

BEGALA: He --I think he's really trying to apologize and show contrition, remorse, and be accountable to the Ethics Committee. What a contrast for Roy Moore who was attacking the Washington Post for telling the truth, attacking these women for telling the truth and somehow now it's a conspiracy between --

CARPENTER: But I do think the Ethics Committee is somewhat of a copout. Ethics Committee is where complaint goes to die. The Senate (INAUDIBLE). We still haven't looked (INAUDIBLE). It only have to pass it by a majority vote and do it for every other man that has incredible accusations.

TAPPER: That's true, Ethics Committee is a joke.

NAVARRO: I mean, a few things. I was incredibly bothered when I read today that Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan did not know that $15 million had been paid out to settle sexual harassment suits. That is outrageous.

TAPPER: Just not to put use by the point. It's all the suits -- all workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, all the suits, not just sexual harassment. It doesn't make any better. I'm just --

NAVARRO: It doesn't need to be known. But you know, I think this is a seminal point for Democrats. And it's one where they can set the example, they can set the moral high ground. And that in that way they can look at Republicans and say, this is not politics, do not politicize this. This is about doing right and wrong. This is about basic decency and morality. So I think Democrats who until now I have not seen be protective of Al Franken, I have not seen try to make this less than what it is are setting an example that Republicans, I hope, learn from and follow. Because what's happening with Roy Moore, what's happening with the Alabama GOP and Roy Moore, is so disgusting and shameful particularly after you just heard the last 40 minutes of this interview.

TAPPER: It is interesting to hear people -- and this works both ways. But today with the Franken allegations, it is interesting to hear people condemn Franken and make apologies for Roy Moore and Donald Trump because either you believe accuser that are launching credible accusations or you don't.

CARPENTER: Well, I was seeing a little bit but I do think the picture makes it impossible. And the only way that women win this argument is if there's audio or video evidence, otherwise, it's he said she said, and as long as people can cling to that he said, they'll do it.

NAVARRO: But on the Roy Moor case, he, you know, this creep signed a young girl's yearbook.

TAPPER: Got to go. Thanks one and all. I really appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, turning over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SIT ROOM." Thank for watching.